Carli Batson, a native of Wilmington and a 2018 Laney High School graduate, was crowned the winner of the Miss North Carolina pageant last weekend at High Point.
Batson, a dancer who grew up in Wilmington’s theater community, said she was “completely surprised” at the outcome.
“I know I’ve worked hard and prepared for a long time,” Batson said Tuesday morning. “But I was really surprised with the result.”
Batson, a former Miss Wilmington who won Miss North Carolina – the contest did not take place in 2020 due to the pandemic – as Miss Cleveland, a city in Johnston County, will represent North Carolina in the 100th contest of Miss America in December at the Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut.
“It’s really cool to be a part of something that will end up being history,” Batson said.
She is the first Miss North Carolina to have ties to Wilmington since University of North Carolina at Wilmington graduate Beth Stovall won the crown in 2014.
Since winning, Batson said, she has been inundated with calls and messages, many from “the old and forever Miss North Carolina.”
“Almost all of them over the past few years have contacted me and let me know that I can ask them for advice, and that was really special,” Batson said.
It’s shaping up to be a very busy year for Batson, whose parents are Keith and Lisa Batson.
On the one hand, she will begin her final year at Appalachian State University with a major in communication and a minor in theater arts.
She will also travel the state as Miss North Carolina and to promote Carolina Cares, her social impact initiative that raises funds for performing arts communities, many of whom suffered financially during the pandemic.
“It’s going to be a busy year, but I can’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t busy,” Batson said. “I feel ready to travel on my own and visit wherever I need to go.”
Batson said it was through the performing arts that she discovered the Miss America organization, which, through the scholarships she won, “changed the path of my financial and academic destiny” and will allow her to graduate from college debt-free.
As a young girl, “it was my dream to be a ballet dancer,” Batson said.
But after receiving summer training at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, her father lost his job and his family could no longer afford the expensive formal dance training.
“But I still had that desire and that passion to perform,” Batson said, and she found her outlet in community theater, performing in shows such as “Memphis” for the former Cape Fear Theater Arts group, and in shows such as “The Will Rogers Follies” for Opera House Theater Co.
Through Opera House, she also met Wilmington artist Jeff Phillips, who Batson says helped her through the Miss North Carolina pageant with everything from interview prep to babysitting advice. dress.
“I like to call Jeff my life mentor,” Batson said. “We started such a fun friendship.”
Ultimately, her dance training is one of the things that helped her win Miss North Carolina.
For the talent portion of the competition, Batson did a lyrical dance to the forefront of the must-see musical theater “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha”, scoring the highest of all contestants in the competition.
Batson also thanks Wilmington – where she said she hopes to start a family one day – for supporting her on her journey.
“Wilmington will always hold such a big place in my heart,” Batson said. “The love of the Wilmington community is unlike any other, but especially of our performing arts community.”
Contact John Staton at 910-343-2343 or [email protected]